The US assessment differs from human rights groups’ critical response to a change in ICC rules that could allow President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto to remain in Kenya while their trials proceed in The Hague.
US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said “the remarkable efforts of the Assembly of State Parties members, including the Kenyan delegation,” had produced an outcome that “protects the rights and interests of both victims and defendants while allowing the judicial process to proceed without delay.”
The United States is not a member of the International Criminal Court, and it had opposed Kenya’s campaign at the UN to win a deferral of the Kenyatta and Ruto trials.
Ambassador Power recalled that she had encouraged Kenya earlier this month to make its appeals to the Assembly of State Parties rather than to the Security Council.
She suggested on Wednesday that Kenya had now achieved a favourable result, even though the trials of its leaders have not been deferred.
“The situation the ICC is confronting in the Kenya cases is a new one,” Ambassador Power noted. “The ICC has never before tried a defendant who is also a sitting head-of-state and who has appeared voluntarily in Court.”
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were less pleased with the consensus decisions reached by the Assembly of State Parties.
Both groups focused on an approved amendment to ICC rules of procedure that opens the way for national leaders to be excused from appearing at their trials in The Hague.
ICC judges will now be permitted to excuse defendants who are “mandated to fulfill extraordinary public duties.”
Amnesty criticised that move as “striking at the notion of equality before the law.” The group said “it is the first time a distinction for persons with official capacity has been recognised in international trials for crimes under international law.”
Human Rights Watch also offered a critical response, but it suggested that President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto might still be required to attend their trial sessions.
Because ICC judges retain the authority to either require or excuse defendants’ attendance at trial, “it remains to be seen whether the change will make any practical difference whatsoever,” said Elizabeth Evenson, Human Rights Watch senior counsel for international justice.-nation.co.ke